Thin, crispy, and topped with a classic pan gravy, chicken fried steak is the unofficial state dish of Texas, and it's based on Wiener schnitzel. How did a nice little German cutlet become the cornerstone of Lone Star cuisine? Cultural adaptation. During the nineteenth century, thousands of Germans emigrated into the Hill Country of central Texas, and when they got there, they found there was lots of beef, but very little veal. So, they just adapted their Wiener schnitzel recipe by tenderizing tougher cuts of meat. Even the light gravy they put on their chicken fried steak has roots in German cuisine in the form of ramen schnitzel, a fried cutlet with a cream sauce. Over time, chuck wagon cooks started making it, which resulted in the myriad varieties we have today. This recipe first appeared in Season 10 of Good Eats.Photo by Lynne Calamia
Cut the meat with the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Season each piece on both sides with the salt and pepper. Put the flour in a pie pan. Put the eggs in a separate pie pan. Dredge the meat on both sides in the flour. Tenderize the meat, using a needling device, until each slice is 1/4-inch thick. Once tenderized, dredge the meat again in the flour, followed by the egg, and finally in the flour again. Repeat with all the pieces of meat. Place the meat onto a plate and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.
Place enough of the vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a 12-inch slope-sided skillet and set over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the meat in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook each piece on both sides until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Remove the steaks to a wire rack set in a half sheet pan and place in the oven. Repeat until all of the meat is browned.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining vegetable oil to the pan, (enough so that you have about a tablespoon and a half total). Whisk in 4 tablespoons of the leftover dredge flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the broth until thoroughly combined and cook until the gravy comes to a bare simmer and begins to thicken. until the gravy comes to a boil and begins to thicken. Add the milk and thyme keep whisking until the gravy falls off a spoon like a ribon (piling up a bit on the surface before smoothing out), 5 to 10 minutes. Season to taste (I always go with more gravy), and serve the gravy over the steaks.
Tip: if you can't serve right away keep the steaks warm in a low oven and the gravy snug inside your favorite thermos.